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(c) by Mary Griggs

On this Memorial Day, please take a moment to remember all the LGBT service members who gave up their tomorrows so we could have our today. LGBT soldiers have always subscribed to the same values of the military including duty, honor, and loyalty. Their service and sacrifice should be respected and acknowledged.

Since the Sacred Band of Thebes, gays and lesbians have been members of the military. Despite Plato lauding gay troops in his Symposium, much of the world’s military history includes the persecution of such soldiers. The Knights Templar had many members burned at the stake for their same-sex affairs in the early 14th century. In 1816, during the Napoleonic wars, four men aboard the British ship H.M.S. Africaine were hanged for “buggery.” During the American Revolution, Lieutenant Frederick Enslin was court-martialed for attempted sodomy. Since World War II, more than 115,000 United States service members have been discharged for being gay or lesbian.

The basic mission of the military is to provide the forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of the nation. They primarily do so without a draft, recruiting volunteers to serve. These volunteers join in the knowledge that they may be asked to lay down their lives so that the rest of us may live in peace. Too many have returned home after having left body parts in foreign lands. A lamentable number never return at all.

They are heroes. You don’t ask heroes for their sexual orientation or to confirm their gender identity before letting them make sacrifices on our behalf. Instead, we should thank them and honor them for doing the right thing, the brave thing, the noble thing. We should be grateful that they were willing to die for our liberty, even while being denied their own because of who they are.

During today’s celebrations, give a toast to those who sacrificed all, those who sacrificed some, and to those still sacrificing to protect our country.